While there are a myriad of things that contribute to a restaurant's success (prime location and impeccable design, a well equipped staff, and an intriguing menu to be sure), it is the chef who is responsible for the heart and soul of the operation. These captains of the kitchen are the ones that set the tone for success with their creativity, passion and skill. It should come as no surprise that Dallas is home to a fair share of finest chefs and culinary creatives in the industry. Listed below is a sampling of award-winning chefs from a few of my favorite restaurants for you to check out the next time you find yourself in the Big D.
Matt Ford of Billy Can Can
Nominated by CultureMap Dallas for Chef of the Year 2019, Chef Matt Ford has worked diligently to bring his expertise to several top-notch concepts in Dallas. His experience ranges from the Italian inspired menu at Americano to contemporary American cuisine at both CBD Provisions and Craft Dallas. Ford's latest role has partnered him with restaurateur, Tristan Simon, with whom he has brought to life the upscale saloon-style concept, Billy Can Can. Located in the increasingly popular Victory Park neighborhood, Billy Can Can is a nod to the saloons of old in every wild west tale while providing a menu and aesthetic that balance the past with the present-day modernity and creativity. A Texas-heavy menu is lightened with a French influence and the lively atmosphere is second to none.
Bruno Davaillon of Bullion
Originally from the Loire Valley of France, Chef Bruno Davaillon began working in his first Michelin-starred restaurant at age 16 and graduated with a degree in the Culinary Arts in 1984. Bringing his talents to the US, he worked as the Chef de Cuisine at the St. Regis Hotel in Los Angeles, spent two years in San Francisco and was then hand-selected in 2004 by Alain Ducasse to run his Las Vegas restaurant, Mix, where he earned a Michelin Star in 2008 and 2009. Looking to build a base of regular clientele rather than those on vacation, he found consistency and creative support in Dallas with a six-year tenure at Rosewood Mansion at Turtle Creek where he earned a James Beard nomination for Best Chef Southwest in 2012. Today, Bruno Davaillon is the Executive Chef and Owner of his own restaurant, Bullion, in Downtown Dallas, which focuses on French-style cuisine as Chef Bruno sees it.
Stephan Pyles of Flora Street Cafe
Dallas Arts District
A 5th generation Texan and widely known as the founding father of modern Texas cuisine, Stephan Pyles is an award-winning chef, cookbook author and philanthropist in Dallas. He is the first person in the Southwest to win a James Beard Award for Best Chef and has opened 22 restaurants in five cities over the last 30 years. To say he is accomplished at his culinary craft would be a severe understatement. His newest concept, Flora Street Cafe, highlights his mastery of 'Elevated Modern Texas Cuisine' and celebrates the concept of 'Food as Theatre' where the menu and cocktail list pay homage to the culinary arts and the fine arts. Should you miss out on a reservation at Flora, fear not, you can stop by before your flight home at Sky Canyon by Stephan Pyles in Terminal D at both Dallas Love Field and DFW Airports as well as Stampede 66 Express at DFW Terminal D.
Kent Rathbun of Imoto
As a four-time James Beard-nominated chef and restaurateur, Chef Kent Rathbun has made an impression on the Texas food scene that Dallas is not soon to forget. Rathbun's love of the kitchen started at age 14 while working at a local establishment in Kansas City, Missouri. Three years later he was working as an apprentice in the 5-star Kansas City restaurant, La Bonne Auberge. After serving as a sous-chef for Dallas' The Mansion on Turtle Creek, in 1999 Rathbun decided to open his own restaurant, the highly-touted and widely praised, Abacus. Shortly thereafter, in 2003, he opened Jasper's in Plano, Texas. Both restaurants received rave reviews and professional accolades. In 2018, Rathbun opened the concept, Imoto, in Victory Park. Imoto presents a pan-Asian menu, along with traditional sushi and creative cocktails in sleek modern digs.
Misti Norris of Petra and the Beast
Misti Norris, the newest name in Dallas restaurant scene, has been making waves and receiving national acclaim for her culinary prowess. Born in North Carolina and raised in Houston, Texas, Chef Norris was a 2016 James Beard Rising Star Semi-finalist and that was only the beginning. Currently, she is the Owner and Executive Chef of Petra and the Beast, a small, thoughtful concept focused on utilizing farms, foraging, fermentation and fire. Since its opening in 2018, it has received numerous accolades such as being named one of Esquire's Best Restaurants in America 2018, one of D Magazine's Best New Restaurants 2018 and most recently included in the 2019 Best New Chef class in Food & Wine. If you'd like to sample the fare at Petra and the Beast, reservations are available for their Saturday tasting menus and walk-ins are welcome Wed-Fri, Sun from 12 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. for casual counter service, small plates and charcuterie.